Which cities are safer as climate changes?

The data is clear. We’re seeing more frequent extreme rainfall and stronger storm events as climate changes. And in that evolving future climate, some cities are facing more risk than others.

Business Insider highlights one research group that is evaluating which cities are safest in our future climate.
The list includes San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and the Twin Cities.

On this week’s Climate Cast I spoke with Portland State University urban planning professor Vivek Shandas about what we might call evaluating cities ‘climate change geography.’


As you can imagine, the task of evaluating risk for individual cities is complex. One challenge is how much weight to give to infrastructure and city adaptation plans vs. more extreme storm events.

The concept of climate change geography is an evolving area of research going forward. We’ve already seen thousands of people relocate after Katrina and Sandy. Now people in Houston and Puerto Rico are facing the same choice; where do we go to live in a safer place?

Minnesota cities score high on this study’s list of “climate safe” places. A big part of that reason is good infrastructure and the high-quality climate adaptation planning here. But even our “Scandinavian Riviera” is seeing more flooding from increasing extreme rainfall events.

So, when it comes to climate and extreme weather Steven, safety is a relative term.


  • Philip A. Rutter

    San Francisco?? Portland?? These guys ever hear of plate tectonics? And rising sea levels with big storms causing faults to shift?

    • Chris C

      Except the most significant cause of sea level change is due to water warming and thus expanding. It’s getting less dense, same mass over increase volume, there isn’t that much more water. The total mass isn’t changing (much) to put different strains on the plates. Well, the mass is changing slightly due to melting ice but this is a minor reason for the higher sea level. Minor mass changes probably aren’t going to change the plates.
      Of course all of the predictions are theory anyway. Theory – more larger hurricanes, except for this year hasn’t been case, we’ll see over the next few years, noting hurricanes have a long period cycle that isn’t understood. Theory – tectonic activity, we’ll see. We can’t predict the current activity so how’d we attribute a change to anything seems difficult.

      “The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that this (temperature increase) phenomenon accounts for 30 to 55 percent of global sea level rise, while melting glaciers account for 15 to 35 percent.”

      • Philip A. Rutter

        Sure, I’m well aware of thermal expansion. The change in force is not due to much to mere weight, but to the change in impact points of higher storm surf. The book “Waking the Giant; How Climate Change Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanoes” – is from 2013, and by a fully credentialed, respected meteorologist. It was professionally well received, usually with a “well, I don’t like this; but his arguments are solidly based on science” . The geologists already have measurements on the force of storm waves, and the can trigger fault movement. The force is astonishing already- and will get greater, more frequent, and in different places; all pointing towards triggering faults.

        As for predictability – are you familiar with the Bayesian statistics revolution? Very few mainstream scientists are- and there is a heated battle between those using standard probability statistics, and those using Bayesian. Standard statistics results in a “yes/no” sort of answer. Bayesian will return a probability. Many fields have discovered that Bayesian processes are far more powerful, and much better at predicting outcomes. My own Bayesian analysis on significant fault movement due to increased storm impact, somewhere around the world in the next 10 years, etc. is around 85%. As betting odds – that’s scary high.